Dear Evan Hansen (2019)

Rupert is appearing in the West End production of Dear Evan Hansen, as Larry Murphy, Zoe and Connor’s dad.

The production’s London home is the Noel Coward Theatre – with previews from 29 October 2019, opening on 19 November, and tickets currently selling through to May 2020.

This is wonderful for Rupert, as the Broadway production has been enthusiastically received, and won six Tony Awards in 2017, including Best Musical. I think we’re all anticipating a long run for this in London!

Links:

Reviews:

5 stars from Alex Wood for WhatsOnStage: … The result is something quite extraordinary – a musical not like any other. … And its success depends entirely on its leading man.  … Debutant Sam Tutty … wears a lot of the characters’ flaws on his cast-sporting sleeve, from nervous ticks to jaunted mannerisms and turbulent dialogue. It’s hard to appear simultaneously nervy while capable of holding the attention of 900 spectators, but it’s something Tutty manages adeptly – the sort of assurance you rarely get from a first timer. … But Tutty’s success comes while sitting on the shoulders of some titanic supporting performances … In a piece that spends a large portion of its runtime focussing on the anxieties of teens, it’s often the adults that steal the show – Rupert Young and Lauren Ward present a rich, textured relationship as Murphy’s parentsDear Evan Hansen is a desperately powerful exploration of a troubled teen sacrificing the truth for a sense of comfort – startlingly relevant for a world swaddled in screens and fleeting fictions.

4 stars from Tim Bano for The Stage: … Straight out of drama school, Sam Tutty is not only thrust into the spotlight in his West End debut as Evan Hansen, but also up against the legacy of Ben Platt, whose intense performance in the original Broadway production was a large part of the reason it won such devoted fans. Tutty does his own thing, and he soars. Crucially, he’s more likeable than Platt, which solves some of the show’s problems. His Evan is a tight, jittery knot of anxiety, embarrassed by his own existence, looking the whole time like he wishes the world would swallow him up. His panicky, rabbit-in-headlights expression never leaves his pale face, and he fiddles with his fingers and shirt buttons like he’s surprised he’s got limbs and not sure what to do with them. … The rest of the cast is wonderful. Lucy Anderson makes a striking professional debut as Evan’s crush Zoe, and Rebecca McKinnis does strong work as Heidi Hansen, a single mum working as a nurse while taking evening classes in the hope of giving Evan a better life. McKinnis skilfully brings out the mixed-up emotions of the situation: guilt at being absent so often, love, worry. There’s a particularly soul-baring performance from Lauren Ward as Connor’s mum Cynthia. … Verdict: The powerful, moving and superbly performed Broadway smash with a top notch pop score hits the West End

4 stars from Mark Shenton for LondonTheatre.co.uk: … It’s not just a musical for the social media age but also puts its alternately productive and pernicious effects on full display. As such, it could not be more welcome. … In the stunningly slick and sleek production that has arrived at the Noel Coward Theatre, the show has also found and will make a new star of recent Italia Conti graduate Sam Tutty in the title role. … [Tutty] pulls off the rare trick of projecting adolescent angst and insecurity with paradoxically confident ease. With his strawberry blonde hair and slight physical bearing, he embodies a nerdy character (far more successfully, in fact, that Ben Platt who originated the role on Broadway). There’s a truthfulness to his acting – and a robust singing voice – that makes him feel utterly authentic and intensely moving. There’s lovely complementary work from Rebecca McKinnis as his struggling single mother, with Lauren Ward, Rupert Young and Lucy Anderson as the parents and sister of Connor Murphy, the boy who has committed suicide. … Just recently Florian Zeller’s The Son played just down the street at the Duke of York’s that offered another shattering account of a teen suicide; Dear Evan Hansen will reach an even bigger audience, and its impact will resonate, hopefully far beyond the theatre’s walls.

5 stars from Chris Omaweng for LondonTheatre1.com: … another West End star is born in Sam Tutty, who takes on the title role in this production with remarkable stage presence and conviction. Hansen is an anxious teenage boy – the anxiety is there for reasons explained during the performance – and Tutty’s portrayal of him is considerably detailed. … The whole cast are excellent, really.  … If anything, this is a show that reminds its audiences that nobody deserves to be forgotten. May Dear Evan Hansen’s sun shine bright in the West End, and (we can but hope) for forever. It’s emotionally exhausting but wholly rewarding: I’ve already booked to see it again.

4 stars from Michael Billington for The Guardian: Sam Tutty shines as the lonely student who fabricates a friendship with a dead boy, but this award-winning musical has plot holes … Mawkishness is also kept at bay by Tutty’s performance. Making his West End debut, he captures Evan’s loneliness through an array of nervy smiles and hesitant gestures, and suggests his whole body could disintegrate at any moment: paradoxically, he conveys a lack of certainty with complete technical assurance and, when it comes to his solo numbers, proves he can really sing. Lucy Anderson, another debutant, also impresses in capturing the emotional wariness of Connor’s sister and there is fine work from Rebecca McKinnis as Evan’s mum, even if she has to undergo a last-minute transformation, and from Lauren Ward and Rupert Young as the misled Murphy parents. Michael Greif’s direction, deploying a kaleidoscopically digital design by David Korins, is swift and sensitive. Everything, in fact, is expertly done but, if I didn’t totally surrender to the show, it is because it lacks the courage to admit that high anxiety is not so easily cured.

4 stars from Alice Saville for Time Out: This wildly hyped Broadway hit musical is basically ‘Faust’ for high-schoolers. A nerdy, anxiety-ridden teenage boy sells his soul (well, his integrity, anyway) for the popularity and appreciation he’s spent his whole life craving. But his guilt makes every YouTube follow or Twitter retweet become excruciating – and then the whole fragile edifice comes crashing down. … A West End newcomer, 21-year-old Sam Tutty glows with sweat and goodness, bringing integrity to a storyline that’s somewhere between ingenious and tortuous.

[This is a very well written review, and raises my main issue with the story. Perhaps not coincidentally it’s the first review from a woman I’ve read…? (Ah, I’ve just found another one.) But anyway, I love Saville’s succinct turn of phrase.]

4 stars from Lucy Brooks for Culture Whisper: Musical theatre takes on Gen Z in Dear Evan Hansen, which brings a fresh version of the teenage misfit trope to London. … For all the hype, Dear Evan Hansen is fairly low key for a West End musical: it’s a subtle, intimate story with just eight actors and minimal choreography. … Sam Tutty is remarkably confident in his West End debut, playing Evan with a squirmy shyness and a sweet but strong singing voice. He makes the adolescent awkwardness at once funny and deeply tender. He has strong support from Rebecca McKinnis as Evan’s overworked single mum, juggling worries and ambitions for her son with the guilt and devotion of parenthood. There’s plenty of pithy comedy, especially in the silliness of an escalating lie, but the show is most striking in its unflinching honesty. It explores suicide and depression with a light but probing touch. The result is moving but never melodramatic or preachy.

Article by Steven McIntosh for BBC News: The creators of Broadway hit Dear Evan Hansen tell BBC News why depression, loneliness and “grief tourism” are suitable subjects for a West End musical.

4 stars from Clive Davis for The Times [behind a paywall]: Anxiety is all around. Weeks after Matt Haig’s bestselling memoir about depression, Reasons to Stay Alive, was adapted for the stage, along comes a Tony-winning musical that turns teenage suicide into Broadway anthems. Yet if the prospect of spending an evening contemplating the perils of peer pressure, family breakdown and rampant social media seems less than inviting, be reassured that Dear Evan Hansen is worth it. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul have fashioned a set of sophisticated and cathartic numbers. And although the ending feels slightly sentimental, Steven Levenson’s book is still a courageous and often witty attempt to make sense of adolescent trauma. At the centre of Michael Greif’s production is the superb Sam Tutty as Evan, a tongue-tied teenager who struggles with even…

4 stars from Dominic Cavendish for The Telegraph: I was consistently (darkly) entertained, not just by the narrative twists and turns but the internal knots into which Hansen ties himself, prompted by his tangle of misplaced altruism, grasping opportunism and beta-male insecurity. At the same time, the evening does feel – much like its protagonist – supremely calculated; and for all its cleverness, there is an air of chilliness about it. … Directed (as on Broadway) by Michael Greif, the evening has – all the same – no weak links, casting-wise. But the show belongs to its 21-year-old star Sam Tutty, fresh out of drama school and making his West End debut.

5 stars from Paul Taylor for the Independent: A superb, unmissable musical. Sam Tutty gives a star-making performance in a story of grief, deception and the conscienceless juggernaut of the internet. … Tutty is more than equal to the part’s extraordinary demands – his strong singing voice has the plaintive wail and SOS falsetto of someone in a rapture of neediness – but he also radiates the haplessness of a misfit propelled into a situation that is at once horribly comic and tragic. Farcically tongue-tied, and with his own idealised fantasies of having had an intimate friendship, he succumbs to the temptation of exploiting the family’s grief. From an excruciating mix of social embarrassment and inner desperation, Evan becomes friendly with the dead boy’s family. The mother (Lauren Ward) is stricken to the heart by the baffling loss; the father (Rupert Young) is in “manly” denial; Evan has long had a crush on the sister Zoe (the excellent Lucy Anderson), who is truculently hurt by everything – particularly Evan’s new, unwanted presence in their home, and her guilt at resenting her brother for having definitively put his problems at the centre of the family’s emotional life. … To my mind, there is a period-piece feel to the redemptive lack of recrimination in the uplift of the close. The show itself forgets, in its message that “nobody deserves to be forgotten”, that the internet never does forget. All the same, unmissable.

3 stars from Nick Curtis for the Evening Standard: This multi Tony award-winning Broadway musical carves out bold new territory for the form, taking on depression, herd behaviour on social media, and the public nature of modern grieving. It also features standout emotional and vocal performances from Sam Tutty in the needy, nerdy title role and fellow newcomer Lucy Anderson as the out-of-his-league love interest. … There’s a reason why Broadway critics and audiences love Dear Evan Hansen: it features real relationships and real problems as well as virtual ones, dramatising the agony of parents as well as the angst of teenagers. The score and lyrics have a clean-cut simplicity and a lack of bombast. Michael Greif’s production feels as if it’s been transported lock, stock and barrel from Manhattan, right down to the eyes-aloft, from-the guts-style of singing, which always looks odd and overdone in London. Ultimately, this is a high school drama about stalkers, trolls and those who piggyback on tragedy. Which may be a tough sell for a London musical audience.

5 stars from Mark Ludmon for BritishTheatre.com: … It could have been one long emotional howl but, under director Michael Greif, it has a restraint that pulls it back from sentimentality, including the soaring ballads of loneliness and disconnection, “Waving Through a Window” and “You Will Be Found”. Much of this is down to Sam Tutty as Evan whose cleverly nuanced performance is full of subtlety and wit, embodying the twitchy angst of a troubled teen who just wants to fold in on himself and disappear. … Another surprise is that this big musical theatre hit is told by a cast of only eight, giving it intimacy and focus. Jack Loxton is funny and engaging as Evan’s tech-savvy “family friend” Jared and Nicole Raquel Dennis is impressive as intensely driven student Alana while Doug Colling and Lucy Anderson are also engaging as Connor and Zoe. Rebecca McKinnis, Lauren Ward and Rupert Young are also excellent as the children’s parents, just as lost as the younger generation. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s music and lyrics beautifully weave through the story, with many of the hits such as “For Forever” and “You Will Be Found” acquiring complicated layers of meaning that are not apparent out of context on a cast recording. The music enhances the complex emotions played out within the story, building up to a crescendo of hope that many of us need right now.

4 stars from Marianka Swain for The Arts Desk: … It also made a star of original leading man Ben Platt, now appearing in Netflix’s The Politician – and this long-awaited West End production could well do the same for the exceedingly talented 21-year-old Sam Tutty. … Thankfully, Michael Greif’s production is leavened with both sharp, satirical wit and silliness – as when Jared, in writing emails from “Connor”, inserts lewd jokes that a panicked Evan quickly excises, or when a student is praised for their “school-shooter chic” appearance. But there’s also a winning earnestness that fits both the adolescents’ self-serious experience and the parents’ candid despair. For the most part, this is a musical with real emotional heft, its raw, confessional songs going for the jugular – leaving audience members openly weeping. Key to that response is the remarkable Tutty. … However, McKinnis gives a blistering rendition of one of the strongest songs, and also explores Heidi’s darker side: pride gets in the way of her accepting help, even though she implores Evan to accept hers. As Connor’s hollowed-out parents, Ward and Young’s quiet desolation is utterly heart-wrenching, while Loxton is mischievously funny as Jared, Dennis brings blinkered intensity to Alana, Colling provides an inscrutable Connor, and Anderson wrestles believably with reforming her view of an unlikeable brother. All beautifully handle the contemporary pop-rock score – which, if pretty unvarying in its guitar-led balladry, does work well in serving both characters and narrative.

4 stars from West End Wilma: Sam Tutty plays Evan Hansen, however on the day I went to see the show, it was alternate Evan, Marcus Harman’s first performance which was a pleasant surprise and he did a good job. Alternate’s, understudies and swings often don’t get enough praise in this industry and so it is always nice to catch them doing their thing on stage. … Dear Evan Hansen will never be the same as the original Broadway production, for which the role of Evan was essentially created for Ben Platt. I left the London theatre not feeling particularly emotional compared to how I felt the first time I saw the show on Broadway but the bar was set pretty high for my expectations. Setting aside the Broadway production, this is a great musical with brilliant songs and a story that needs to be told and seen so get your tickets now!

5 stars from Greg Stewart for Theatre Weekly: … As Evan, Sam Tutty gives the performance of the decade. Newly graduated, Tutty takes on one of the most challenging roles in theatre and makes it look like a walk in the park. His every nervous twitch, or faltering of his voice brings out the tragic loneliness and anxiety of the character, while his flawless vocals are nothing short of mesmerising. Tutty’s debut West End performance will rightly earn a place in musical theatre history. Sam Tutty is supported by a small but accomplished cast … while as the parents, Rebecca McKinnis, Lauren Ward and Rupert Young are outstanding. … As I left my seat on opening night at The Noël Coward, tears streaming down my face, I turned to the row behind where a young lady was still sobbing into a tissue. She looked up and gave me a half smile, a gesture which I returned. In that moment we both knew what the other had experienced, and the message of Dear Evan Hansen struck me with startling clarity; none of us are really alone, and perhaps this really is the musical that will help us all to be found.

Review by Frey Kwa Hawking for Exeunt Magazine: … The ride the musical takes you on is at once earnest, funny, and horrific – and though there isn’t time devoted to the full implications of Evan’s actions, the darkness of the subject matter is a welcome surprise. … Tutty turns in a great performance as Evan, blinking the sweat out of his eyes, picking at his clothes, and as his mother, McKinnis’ Heidi is wonderful. … Though Steven Levenson’s writing is sweet and smart, other characters remain barely sketched besides Evan and Heidi. … But then, it’s not their stories, in the end: it’s Evan’s. And it’s a ludicrous, horrific, silly, purposefully cringe-inducing, forcefully heartstring-pulling one, but for all it can be criticised, it’s very easy to love.

3 stars from John Nathan for the Metro: … Best of all is 21-year-old Sam Tutty, who in his West End debut is launched by Michael Greif’s slick production into the stratosphere of musical stardom. In one of the performances of the year Tutty plays the painfully awkward loner Evan who starts the new term with a broken arm and instructions from his doctor to build self-confidence with positive letters to and by himself. … But although Pasek and Paul’s songs are a great listen … nearly every number comes from a similar angst-filled emotion. The exception is Sincerely, Me in which Evan, his sarky schoolmate Jared (Jack Loxton) and their imagined version of Connor (Doug Colling) compile fake emails to convince the world that Evan and Connor were best friends. And suddenly the show has a rare psychological complexity as the dead Connor becomes Evan’s alter-ego. Yet unlike the brilliant 2006 school musical Spring Awakening — every note of which reflects the soaring highs and plummeting depths of the suicidally young — here, not much changes musically. Still, in Tutty, a star is born.

Tweet from Andrew Lloyd Webber Himself: Hugely enjoyed Dear Evan Hansen last night. Great to see a new musical tackling a serious subject with a fine new score. A blessed relief from jukebox shows.

Tweet from Graham Norton: Lucky enough to see @DEHWestEnd last night. Funny, moving powerful. @samtutty and the whole cast lift it to a new level! Congratulations!!

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